Want to Win Over Investors for Your Plant-Based Snack Line? 'Make it @#$%-ing Delicious' Says This Entrepreneur.
How the CEO of Moku Foods walked onto 'Elevator Pitch' and left with a deal.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Matt Feldman and I'm the founder and CEO of Moku Foods. Starting with jerky, Moku is harnessing the power of mushrooms to create delicious and nutritious snacks that are better for our bodies and the planet.
What inspired you to create this product? What was your "aha moment"?
After learning about the immense impact that factory farming, in particular beef production, has on our planet, I shifted to a plant-based diet starting in 2018. I was looking everywhere for a meaty, savory snack like jerky that would satisfy my cravings. After coming up empty-handed, I bought some mushrooms, a dehydrator, and got to work. I eventually partnered with renowned chef, Thomas Bowman, and created a jerky that looks like bacon, tastes like jerky, but is made from mushrooms.
The "aha" moment was after spending six months developing the perfect product with Thomas, I sampled the product to Andrew and Steven on the Moku team, and their reaction was "Holy shit, this is f*ckin incredible!"
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
Before pitching investors, get as far as you can by bootstrapping your business and/or raising a family/friends round if that is an option. I did not raise a family/friends round, but I bootstrapped Moku for the first year. For me, this meant spending late evenings at my day job so that I could eat a free dinner there and sleeping in a different friend's house every month for a year so that every dollar went to Moku…You don't need to be as extreme as me!
Because capital early on is tight, bringing one or two co-founders on board early can be crucial in getting the business to an investable stage. While solo founders can wear a lot of hats, having people around you owning different areas of the business while sharing the load of time and energy is usually worth it.
Create a sense of urgency. Having a great tasting product and a talented team is unfortunately not always enough to push investors over the line. There are some investors who instantly connect with the founder/mission/brand and write a check, but these are rare. A good way to get investors moving is to create a sense of urgency and draw the line on timing for when they have to provide a yes or no answer.
And be persistent! As ESPN's Neil Everett says, "If you ask 100 girls on a date and 99 say no, it means you have a date."
The reality is that investors are looking at dozens and dozens of deals each week and most of these deals they do not invest in. Raising capital is a numbers game and it's important not to get down when you hear the infamous words "we're going to pass right now but would love to stay in touch." Just like anything, after getting the first couple of investors to come in, the rest becomes easier to corral.
Remember: No meeting is a waste of time. The more investors you pitch, the better you get at crafting your pitch and story.
How was your Elevator Pitch experience?
Elevator Pitch was an amazing experience. Due to some confusion on the scheduling, I didn't actually know I would be pitching until about two hours before the event. I remember being on my phone in the waiting room googling "Elevator Pitch Show" to figure out what I was getting myself into.
Pitching in the elevator with a big timer counting down 60 seconds was a thrill. My goal was to get the judges curious enough to want to try the jerky, so I held the pieces in my hand and tried my best not to butcher my pitch. Once I got up to the judges and they tried the product, it was smooth sailing from there and they agreed to a deal. Super grateful I got to experience being on the show.
What does the word entrepreneur mean to you?
An entrepreneur to me is someone who believes so much in an idea that they are willing to risk stability, comfort, and mental hardships in order to see it come to life.
Describe your company culture and how you helped shape it.
Moku's company culture is built upon trust, freedom, and ownership. Our team is entirely remote, which means every member of the team has the freedom to work their craft in any way they wish. With a small team, there is no time to manage people. We all own different aspects of the business and turn to each other for help when we need collective brainpower. The most important trait I look for in people when hiring is empathy and the ability to put aside one's ego for the betterment of the company.
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